A Century of Cars: 52. Solido 1929 Cord L-29 Coupe
This was the first American front-wheel
drive car to be offered to the public, beating the Ruxton automobile
by several months, in 1929. The brainchild of former Miller engineer
Carl Van Ranst, its drive system borrowed from the Indianapolis
500-dominating racers, using the same de Dion layout and inboard
brakes. This allowed it to be much lower than competing cars. Both
stock cars and special bodies built on the Cord chassis by American
and European coachbuilders won prizes in contests worldwide. The
L-29 came with full instrumentation, including a temp. gauge, oil
pressure gauge, and speedometer on the left with a gas gauge, oil
level gauge, and Ammeter on the right of the steering wheel.
It was powered by Auburn's 4,934 cc (301 cu in) 125 hp (93 kW) L-head Lycoming inline 8 from the Auburn 120, with the crankshaft pushed out through the front of the block and the flywheel mounted there, driving a three-speed transmission. Gearing in both transmission and front axle was inadequate, and the 4,700 lb (2,100 kg) car was underpowered, limited to a trifle over 80 mph (130 km/h), inadequate even at the time, and readily exceeded by the less expensive Auburn. Still, the styling was lovely, and despite the 137.5 in (3,490 mm) wheelbase and steering demanding fully four turns lock-to-lock, handling was reportedly superb. Priced around US$3000, it was competitive with Marmon, Lincoln, Packard, Franklin, and Stutz; the 1930 Chrysler copied several styling elements. It could not outrun the Great Depression, and by 1932, it was discontinued, with just 4,400 sold.